I am not shy about telling friends who voted for Donald Trump that I think the president is a clown. Many of them agree Trump is a clown, too, but they argue that he’s a better clown than the clown I voted for. We try to be civil with one another.
What a mess.
I worry about what I can do to be a better gardener and citizen. I can take better care of my garden, but I can’t battle the president on all fronts, nor even most of them.
There is no reason to think the president has any interest in gardening. And he has tweeted, “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop.”
We are at odds.
I’ve been planting small oak (Quercus lyrata) trees and watching Marx Brothers movies with my ten-year-old granddaughter. These diversions take a little edge off the insurgent political chaos. I love planting trees, and we need a few laughs.
I started the oak trees from acorns. These little one-year-old trees are easier to plant and a lot less expensive than larger container, or balled..
Tree of the Week
Southern Magnolia: A Southern Charm
By Sheereen Othman | March 14, 2017
Magnolias are entwined with the history of the south. Named after Pierre Magnol — the French botanist who discovered the tree in Louisiana and took seedlings back with him to France — magnolias have become iconic landscape trees in the South. With oversized, fragrant flowers, it’s easy to see why admirers have developed more than 150 cultivars in attempt to extend the tree’s range into the North.
The oldest Southern Magnolia standing today is on Washington State Park in Washington, Arkansas. The tree is said to have been planted near an important road junction in 1839 by Gen. Grandison D. Royston. It was near a blacksmith shop where Jim Bowie fashioned his famous knife.
Some call it the Jones Magnolia because two unrelated boys were born to Jones families the same year the tree was planted. Both became Colonels in the Confederate army and one, Daniel W. Jones, e..
Top 10 Flowering Trees
By Sheereen Othman | March 13, 2017
The season of vibrant blossoms and sweet scents is almost here. Although the weather says otherwise in some parts of the country, many people will start their spring planting. Flowering trees are great choices if you’re looking to spruce up your landscape and add splashes of color to your yard.
Here are the top 10 flowering trees sold from the Arbor Day Tree Nursery , in order of the most popular.
Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia)
There’s no better way to welcome the coming of spring than with the profusion of yellow blooms covering graceful, arching branches. The forsythia is a fast-growing, hardy shrub that blooms early—providing a sunny sight before the rest of the landscape greens up.
Fragrant Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
Spectacular flowers in shades of lilac, light purple, or lavender make this old-time lilac a garden favorite. The long-lasting flower clusters bloom in April or May and are..
I’m sure you’ve noticed the barrage of ads every spring telling us to “green up” our lawns with fast-acting fertilizer, and don’t forget the pesticides! Sadly, the Internet, where search results are dominated by click-bait sites from dubious sources and even from known quacks, isn’t much better.
That makes me crazy! It also motivates me to try to combat the high-maintenance, damn-the-environment misinformation about lawn care by finding the best advice on the subject, what I’m calling “enlightened” lawn-care advice for spring. A big thanks to Extension Associate Lori Brewer, author of Cornell’s excellent turfgrass info for the public, for her help in compiling this guide, which applies only to cool-season grasses only like fescues and Kentucky Bluegrass, not to warm-season grasses like Zoysia.
What does your Lawn Really Need this Spring?
Ignore the old lawn care advice. Now eco-conscious experts are fine-tuning their advice for different levels of performance, which probably doesn’t ..
Ask An Arborist Tree Pruning
Ask an Arborist: Why Do I Need to Prune?
By Arbor Day Foundation | March 10, 2017
This is part one of a three-part dormant pruning series. Watch next week to learn the five rules for form and function.
Tree pruning, trimming, or cutting is an ongoing process throughout the life of your tree. After selecting the right tree and carefully planting it, early pruning is the most important thing you can do for a young tree.
Pruning during dormancy is the most common practice. It results in a vigorous burst of new growth in the spring. It is usually best to wait until the coldest part of winter has passed.
Proper pruning will save you money and give you a safer more beautiful, healthier, and easier-to-maintain tree. Remember what you do to your tree in its first few years of life will affect its shape, strength, and even its life span. If we focus our pruning efforts strategically – with the right tools – we can develop long-lived urban trees!
Last year, a rock theme was in play.
Tis the season for “Home and Garden” shows throughout the land. There are also the iconic flower/garden shows held in Seattle, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and a few other places. I’ve never been to any of these, though I did attend Canada Blooms a couple times; it’s a large and well-regarded show in Toronto. In Buffalo we have a Home Show and a separate gardening show, entitled Plantasia. I’ve spoken at both of these, and this year, I’ll be one of the Plantasia judges.
I know what I’ll see when I attend Plantasia. There will be paving, grills, fireplaces, bars, and water features. Planted areas will have rhodies and other shrubs, bulbs, and such perennials as can be obtained at this inconvenient time. There will also be plenty of fun touches; some of our local designers/landscapers have great senses of humor. The local horticultural schools will likely have some interesting stuff.
On one level, given the choice, I can relate somewhat better to a..
Sunset light show on Sanibel Island, Florida. Shutterstock photo.
Rose and I returned home from Sanibel, Florida, a few weeks ago. I couldn’t stir up a bingo game there but found plenty of other subtropical diversions for old people. I was homesick the whole time but the beach was good to us.
Glimpses of spring arrived in Kentucky while we were away, with record warm temperatures taunting me: I should be transplanting, slender whips of basswoods and oaks. I’ve got a funny feeling that winter has not gone away for good. But go ahead and throw whatever nagging, cold curve ball at me you want. I know, with beach sand still stuck between my toes, I can make it to the spring equinox.
We were joined on Sanibel by a scattered portion of what is left of Woodstock Nation. (You can interpret scattered any way you want.) A beachcombing boomer wore a t-shirt that identified him as a “Shell Ambassador.” On the back of his t-shirt, it said, “I Talk Shells. Ask Me!” The ambassador told me he’d onc..
Tree of the Week
Smoketree: A Mystic Mirage
By Sheereen Othman | March 7, 2017
Native to the rolling hills of the Mediterranean, this luring beauty is a tree that ignites curiosity. It is one of the most arresting shrubs available to gardeners today. As the name denotes, the smoketree is a tree (or shrub) with wispy filaments that resemble haze or smoke.
Traditionally, the smoketree was a source for clothing dye because of the powerful chemicals found in the sap. The species was almost driven to extinction during the Civil War when it was sought out for its use in dying cloth. Even today, the leaves of the smoketree are sometimes harvested in Europe for their tannin content, with the extract as high as 30 percent. Although the sap of smoketree can sometimes cause an allergic reaction, the leaves are steam-distilled by some pharmaceutical companies and used in shampoos, toothpastes, and even as flavoring in food, wine, and tobacco industries.
Featured Misc Trees
Top 10 Shade Trees
By Sheereen Othman | March 6, 2017
Spring shipping starts today! Looking for a great shade tree that will add beauty and benefits? Check out the top 10 shade trees sold through the Arbor Day nursery.
Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
The Quaking Aspen enjoys many claims to tree fame. Thanks to its tiny, fluffy seeds that are carried far and wide by the wind, and to its tolerance to many soil conditions, it is one of the first trees to spring up after forest fires. In Autumn, the stunning yellow foliage brightens the landscape and finds its way onto calendar pages and magazine covers.
2. Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
Aside from its reputation of being a major source of syrup, the sugar maple is a source of other things. Historically, the ashes of sugar maple were used for soap-making, and consuming the syrup was said to aid in kidney and liver problems. Additionally, the hardwood from this tree made it a top choice in furniture ma..
To be the best gardeners we can be we need to challenge our own assumptions from time to time. Recently, I have been doing just that by reading Emma Marris’ book Rambunctious Garden – Saving Nature in a Post Wild World.
In this book, Marris questions the practicality and even the validity of trying to restore our ecosystems to some “pristine” state. Specifically, she challenges those who see the North American landscape as it existed before contact with European colonists as some kind of ideal to be recreated if at all possible. In this Marris runs counter to the main current of contemporary ecological restoration.
Marris doesn’t offer up just opinions. She is a writer for a leading scientific journal, Nature, and is conversant with the latest ecological research (or at least, the latest as of the publication of her book in 2011). Her book is heavily footnoted and includes a 12 ½ page bibliography.
She makes a strong case for re-evaluating our blanket condemnation of exotic species,..